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Hard Business
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Two Girls Kissing
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Pondering Porn
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Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
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The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

Entangled Lives:
Memoirs of 7 Top Erotica Writers
Edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis


Book Review by Lisabet Sarai




Entangled LivesSometimes I wonder. We all do, those of us who write erotica. What is it that makes us willing to bare our dirtiest fantasies to the world? To parade our perversions before our readers? It's true, we hide the truth, we polish and perfect the memories, leaving out the disappointing, the embarrassing and the painful moments, plucking the burning embers of our desire out of the ashes and using them to kindle the words on the page. Still, I don't think it's possible to write well, in erotica or any other genre, without drawing on one's personal passion.

I wonder about myself, and of course, I wonder about other authors of erotica, especially the well-established and well-published ones. Is there something about their histories that helps them write particularly well? Who are they, what have they experienced, and how does that relate to their talent?

Entangled Lives offers, by example, some answers to these questions. Marilyn Jaye Lewis has drawn together a set of autobiographical essays by seven outstanding erotic writers: Bill Brent, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Amie M. Evans, Ian Philips, Greg Wharton, Rob Stephenson, and Marilyn herself. The talent of these contributors is apparent their essays, which are clever and lyrical, ironic and humorous, ecstatic and despairing by turns. They are also, sometimes, wickedly hot. Most of all, though, each of these memoirs is profoundly honest. These are not fictional accounts, carefully groomed for marketability. These accounts include what their authors would have omitted, in a story: the feelings of inadequacy; the sudden disgust with oneself or one's partner; jealousy, infidelity, violence, and other less than noble pursuits; addiction and sexual greed.

The book begins with "Threeway", a chapter written by Ian Philips and Greg Wharton, one of the most renowned couples in gay erotica, and their partner in pleasure, "Adam Greenway" (whose identity is not revealed but who is also an erotic author.) The three contributors alternate in their narratives, and even more amazing, the chapter (which spans more than a year) was written in "real time". When it was begun, the authors didn't know how it would end. Ian, Greg and Adam (having encountered their bared souls in their chapter, I feel comfortable calling them by their first names) have distinctive voices and perspectives, but all of them reveal much of themselves.

I was particularly struck by their revelations about how writing interacts with their real lives.

Commenting on Greg's attraction to Adam (another writer),Ian writes:

"Yes, we have an author fetish. It's out in the open. So much of our libido is channeled into our writing and publishing that it, well, only makes sense that fucking with the people who wrote the words we loved so would be the ultimate culmination of the act of reading and writing and publishing them. The omega orgasm."

Meanwhile, Greg, apparently far more self-confident than Ian, adds an aside:

"It's funny that one of the questions asked quite often of erotic authors (most authors actually) is 'Have you done what you write about?' or 'How much of this is true?' or 'Do you really do that?'. And I've often heard authors answer, 'No, I'm an author.' Or 'It's fiction.' But guess what? I do do that stuff. I have done most of what I write about. (Except for sleeping with my sister's husband, since I don't have a sister, or killing someone, for those of you who know some of my stories... Some of it is fiction.)"

And Adam says, simply:

"Our relationship started with words."

The dance executed by these three men, together and in pairs, across two coasts and in the middle of the country, makes for fascinating and entertaining reading, but also provides serious insight into their respective psyches.

The second chapter is Marilyn Jaye Lewis' memoir. She writes about her long-term but intermittent submissive relationship with the woman who finally satisfied the dreams of surrender and punishment that she had harbored since she was a child. The emotional intensity of this chapter left me with a sympathetically aching heart, especially when I learned that Marilyn is no longer in contact with this person who so changed her life.

"What do I call her, then, if not by her actual name? How do I conjure a suitable other name for the woman whose twenty years of illicit trysts with me have been at the root of much of my most popular erotic fiction -- even when the stories were sometimes about men?"

This paragraph goes to the heart of why a book like this is both intriguing and important. We love, we fuck, we rejoice, we suffer, and then we funnel all this into our work.

Bill Brent supplies the third chapter, entitled "This Insane Allure", in which he chronicles his adventures and misadventures in the gay underground of San Francisco, his battle with AIDS and his addiction to crystal meth, meaningless fucks and incandescent orgasms. This chapter is not easy reading. Through it, though, or actually, in hindsight, Bill manages a level of acceptance and grace that redeems the sometimes awful truths he shares. And he too, talks about how writing fits into this puzzle of his life:

"Sometimes I think that I achieve through writing the kind of release that others achieve through crying. I started writing down my thoughts and feelings about the same time that I started getting assaulted at school. Somewhere along the wounded path to adolescence, I lost the ability to cry tears on all but the rarest occasions.

Writing, then, is a sort of antivenin."

The next chapter is Amie M. Evans' "Public Sex: A Bottom's Confession". After Bill Brent's harrowing story, Amie's seems almost light-hearted, even through spankings and fistings, in trains, parking garages, back alleys, all places where discovery was a mere breath away. What makes this chapter compelling is Amie's overwhelming, insatiable lust, which drives and molds her:

"Desire, the kind of desire that comes from somewhere primordial, deep inside your blood, to be taken, to be used, to be filled, to be spiritually cannibalized. There is an all-consuming want, like the craving of an addict; it grows into an obsession when you don't get it. Your mind allows the thought of having it to consume you in a poor imitation of the real thing. While your pussy may throb to be touched, it is your mind that is addicted to fisting, your mind that craves consumption."

Rob Stephenson follows with "Exuvia (1977-1980)", an account of his first lover and his initiation into the gay community in late seventies San Francisco. Sex, drugs and punk rock; bathhouses and parties; waterbeds and bongs; heartbreak and betrayal, and finally, his first experiments with BDSM.

"I hurried home, mind racing, heart pounding. How could something so powerful and sexual come to pass between us when neither one of us had even ejaculated? I hadn't removed my clothes. Before that night, I'd always thought that successful sex had to result in an orgasm (my orgasm, specifically, but even better if my partner had one, too). And the ultimate sexual act had to involve a physical merging. Moving inside another had until then been a literal concept."

The final chapter in Entangled Lives is Rachel Kramer Bussel's "Confessions of a Spankaholic". Rachel's stories almost always have a first person confessional tone, so this chapter perhaps less startling in its openness than the others. Like the other essays, however, her contribution is lively, well-written, and peppered with details that would never work in fiction (like the guy who spanks her but frustrates her terribly by refusing to screw her). The touchstone of truth in this piece, though, is Rachel's account of her last night before breaking up with the girl she loves (who is going back to a former girlfriend). They try to recapture the magic:

"We kissed like we'd never get the chance to again, which in many ways was true. I went about spanking her almost like a robot, wishing I could feel anything but what I was feeling, wishing we could somehow start over, go back to the beginning and discover ourselves all over again. But all I could do was move by rote, trying as hard as I could to bring us somewhere close to pleasure, even though I knew that was impossible. We tried to pretend everything was normal, but even though our bodies could respond, it wasn't worth it if our hearts weren't in it, and eventually, I dropped my hand and we simply lay there with nothing to say, with a silence so deep no loud whack could fill it."

The key to sex resides in the mind and the heart; it's not just about bodies. That may be lesson that erotic writing teaches. We can be aroused by words alone, the ideas that they suggest, the images they paint. The body responds only when the mind is engaged, or to quote my own tagline "Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

Entangled Lives is a wonderful book, both enjoyable and enlightening. As I read each author's confessions, I couldn't help mentally fashioning my own erotic memoir. What revelations would I share? Which events contributed most to making me the woman and the writer I am today?

If you are a reader of erotica, this book will open your eyes to the complex interplay between reality and fiction in the writing life. If you write erotica, the book will fill you empathy for its authors and perhaps give you some insight into yourself.

Lisabet Sarai
September 2007


Entangled Lives: Memoirs of 7 Top Erotica Writers
(Alyson Books, 2007, ISBN: 1555839983)
Available at: Amazon.com  / Amazon UK


_____
© 2007 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.


About the Author:
Lisabet Sarai has been writing ever since she learned how to hold a pencil. She is the author of three erotic novels, Raw Silk, Incognito, and Ruby's Rules; co-editor, with S.F. Mayfair, of the anthology Sacred Exchange  (Blue Moon); and editor of Cream, the Best of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. 
Visit her website, Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory for more information and samples of her writing.
Join Lisabet's List on Yahoo for exciting chat, contests, and up-to-date information on publications and events: lisabets_list-subscribe@yahoogroups.com



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